STUDIO ARTIST INTERVIEWS
Can you tell us a little about yourself? How did you become an artist?
I live in Brisbane and I’ve been painting and making work at Outer Space for about a year now. I did a fine art degree a couple of years ago at QCA and I do some sessional teaching there now too.
I think I became an artist because I always liked seeing good art and I was curious about how it was made I guess. My work can’t always be good, but it’s important enough to me I keep trying! I watched my parents and other family painting growing up too so it felt like a very normal way of spending time, not indulgent, just work that should be done.
How do you describe the work that you make?
I make paintings, and I think those paintings are for thinking through visceral and psychological experiences I have. It’s not a means of translation, but a way of observing this transmission process that is a good way to analyse the experience I’ve had with a subject or an object or a feeling. That’s broad spectrum, but at the moment I’m thinking a lot about ways of experiencing ecological anxiety, and ways to approach painting the way it manifests in the world in a more personal perceptual manner. Familiar things like sunlight, or the view from a beach I go to, or my friends swimming, can seem suddenly strange to encounter in certain apocalyptic mindsets. I want to make paintings that account for this invisible alteration, objects that appear loaded with anxieties about their possible contamination or longevity or morbidity. I think painting can be quite a neurotic process, so it’s not so much catharsis I’m after, but a deepening of these thoughts, a way of turning them over using other sensory tools.
What’s your earliest memory of making art? Do you feel like the work you make now has a connection to that moment?
I think I remember the first time I made a figurative picture. But I also have a photograph my mum took of the painting so I’m not certain I didn’t craft the memory from that. I know I was in the garden and it had been raining and I drew arcs to make rainbows and circles to make flowers. I remember the echo of making that symbolic connection between the object and picture. I don’t think this memory has a connection in a more specific way to my work other than that figuration impulse, but perhaps the sense to be able to preempt something, like a rainbow, by picturing it, still has a magical kind of quality that’s attractive to me now.
When did you realise you needed a studio space? Was it a conscious decision or something you’ve always understood to be a requirement for being an artist?
My paintings started to get very pale and I could see marks from dead bug bodies all over them. I was painting under my house. It’s near the river so it gets lots of lovely breezes, but they’re sometimes filled with mosquitoes and dust. I like having a place to go to too. I like the ritual and the way the travel time shapes my brain into the right space for work. I don’t think it’s a requirement for an artist but it’s important to me now. All of the spaces I’ve called ‘my studio’ have effected the work I’ve produced there. For a while I was working in a tiny woodworking studio on a backless stool. It’s funny I only saw the other day I have so many paintings of my back, and vertebrae or scoliosis’ from that time.
Can you tell us a little about your process? What does a day in the studio look like for you? Do you spend entire days in the studio, or do you flit in and out?
When I go in I go in for the whole day. I set timers for work and break times and try to keep it regimented. It sounds so boring to write that but it removes the kind of inner monologue about whether or not to keep going, or whether or not something is worthwhile. When you’re working alone those thoughts are around every corner and they can confuse what you’re doing. If I stick to it, and treat myself like a baby, it’s easier to find a rhythm and work more intuitively.
Outer Space is situated in the cultural hub of Brisbane, with major institutions and commercial galleries within walking distance. Does this impact your experience of the studio? If so, how?
It certainly does, I’m so grateful for that. Every day I feel like something new opens up. Because I’m working by myself a lot of the time it’s nice to walk and meet friends and see new things after 5pm. Even though it’s really important for me to work solo, it’s knowing there’s the connection back to the community and other artists that spurs work along. It’s the difference between solitude and isolation. Sometimes I think it would be enough just to know that good work was being made, by anyone, so it’s important to keep looking at things. There’s also the proximity to the river, and the construction sites nearby too that are interesting to look at.
How important is a location to studio spaces? What are the essentials you have in mind when looking for somewhere to work?
Studios like Outer Space are few and far between, so I’m usually not fussy! The important thing for me is light, but some space to stand back is always a treasure. There’s also the other people nearby. I think there’s an osmotic quality to communal studios that have a lot of movement through them, it charges the ideas you’re working at with a kind of friction, there’s more at stake. There’s more responsibility to the work’s legibility then, there’s always questions you haven’t thought to ask yourself.
During a quarantine time like this where movement is so curtailed, I think you really feel the absence of that in the air. Making sure that stillness doesn't turn stagnant is something I’m thinking about now.
Finally, why is art, and being an artist important right now?
I don’t think art is ever more important or less important dependent on a time. I think art happens because individuals need it to happen, and I don’t see that need fluctuating, just sets of concerns changing. There is however, a need for art practices to be supported here now more than ever. There’s a real Hansel and Gretel feel to the cuts that have been made to the arts recently. It scares me because of all the good work that won’t get to be made and the people that will be hurt. There’s a wandering, dark forest feeling at the moment.
Art will always be being made, but I think it’s important to remember that societies that value the art people want to make, necessarily value more exploratory approaches to new ideas or new contexts. If we are to be adaptable to the newness and strangeness of these times, we need to be nimble. There is a sense of safety and comfort to be found when you are more able to explore ideas in ways you’ve found for yourself. It would be a shame to forget.